The Sibling Ally
Recent statistics have indicated that 85-90% of the world population has a sibling (Buist, Deković & Prinzie, 2013), yet, from looking at the current literature and research it seems psychological researchers have underestimated or overlooked the value of the sibling relationship (Hilton & Szymanski, 2011). In fact, Buist, Deković & Prinzie (2013) found it to be the most neglected relationship in psychological research and practice. The sibling relationship is one of the longest lasting of a person’s life (Smith, Romski & Sevcik, 2013) and they are often perceived as providing companionship with a unique influence on one another’s development (Diener, Anderson, Wright & Dunn, 2015). Studies have found that this relationship plays a crucial role in the family’s life when it comes to influence of decisions and resiliency, emphasizing the importance of supports throughout the family system, like mother and father support, to strengthen sibling relationship quality (Jacoby & Heatherington, 2015).
Parents also play a significant role in the development, closeness and view of the sibling relationship. It has been found that many vignettes within sibling literature have focused primarily on the adult sibling relationship, emphasizing relational tears when they were children and not resolved or discussed until adulthood (Wojciak & Gamboni, 2019). This theme perhaps exists based on the parental assumption that siblings will “work things out” or because of similar dynamics based off their own sibling relationships. There needs to be effective communication with all family members to fit everyone’s needs individually for that communication to be impactful. The unfortunate narrative that we “treat all our children the same” seems to have ignored the idea that all people respond, reflect and relate in diverse ways. This perception is present when discussing adults, but children/adolescents seem to be excluded from this idea based on age. Researchers have also indicated the significance of the sibling bond and systemic support when looking at stressful experiences such as coming out as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB).